The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Civil-Rights Era Klan Murderer Dies in Prison

By Mark Potok on August 3, 2011 - 10:54 am, Posted in Anti-Black, Extremist Crime, Klan

James Ford Seale, a long-time member of the Mississippi White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan who very nearly got away with murder, has died. After serving less than four years of three life sentences for the 1964 murders of Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore, both 19, Seale, 76, died in prison this Tuesday.

The Dee/Moore double murder was a classic horror story of the unreconstructed South battling against efforts to end segregation and racial terrorism. Even though Seale’s fellow murderer, Charles Marcus Edwards, gave the FBI a signed confession at the time and both men were arrested, a Mississippi justice of the peace promptly dismissed the case against the Klansmen with no explanation at all. Earlier, a local sheriff told Moore’s mother, who had reported her son missing, that Charles Moore was staying with relatives of the Moores in Louisiana — a lie.

The killings came during what civil rights workers called “Freedom Summer,” a period that may have seen the worst racial terrorism of the civil rights movement. When activists vowed to come to Mississippi that summer to undo segregation, White Knights chief Samuel Bowers ordered his members to carry out a series of “counterattacks” against “selected targets.” Six weeks later, White Knights abducted and murdered James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner in a case that was later recounted in the movie “Mississippi Burning.” It was while dredging the Mississippi River near Tallulah for those three civil rights workers that the disfigured bodies of Dee and Moore were found — two more Southern black men in a group of murdered racial martyrs whose entire roster will never be known.

According to Edwards’ confession, he and Seale selected their victims because Moore had just been expelled from college for taking part in a student demonstration and Dee had lived in Chicago — and because they believed a wild tale about the two being part of planned black Muslim uprising. They abducted their victims from a rural stretch of highway in southwest Mississippi and took them into the Homochitto National Forest, where they tied them to trees and beat them unconscious. Then they tied heavy weights to their bodies and threw them in the river. When the bodies were discovered, one had been cut in half and the other decapitated.

The case was reopened in 2005 after Jerry Mitchell of the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss., reported that Dee and Moore might have been killed in the national forest, meaning the government could bring federal charges. In 2007, Seale was convicted of two counts of kidnapping and one of conspiracy to kidnap. Last year, an appeals court refused to throw out the conviction.

Imperial Wizard Bowers, who himself served time in the Mississippi Burning case and another before dying in prison in 2006, led what at the time was the South’s most violent Klan group. His organization started its response to the Freedom Summer by burning 64 crosses in a single night throughout Mississippi. Before the summer was over, more than 80 people had been beaten, 35 shot at, five murdered and more than 20 black churches had been burned in Mississippi alone.

  • MrsCaptJack

    I wish there was a “like” button here for your post, Ellyn. What a horrible way to exist. And what a truly horrid thing to realize ~ that even now this type of hatred and violence is still an everyday factor in someone’s life.

  • Ellyn James

    I was a Jr in high school in Mississippi in 1964.
    I remember how scary it was then and the pit in my stomach during those years, but what I remember the most was the alert eyes, the fearful eyes, and the bowed heads of the blacks around me. I was sick to my stomach then because I realized where I was living, what I was living in: the state of hate, Mississippi. It was a closed society and stilll is to a great degree. What you see is not what is going on there; there is always an undercurrent, an undertow.

    I see the hate now and hear it now – in the mainstream!They use the same buzz words and the hate is still as repulsive. The hate still gives me a pit in my stomach now just as it did then.

    I have returned to the “outskirts” of the South yet I am afraid to publish my real name with what I write here because I live alone. There are still crazy and hateful people here. They still take great sport in intimidating other whites if they think they can get away with it. Blacks still have to watch themselves and still have to teach their children how to avoid “problems.” We have only come far in the South on the outside, but from the inside, hate is alive and active.

    It concerns me that the same John Birch Society and many factions of the klan and neo-nazi elements are still active; they are both dressed up in all kinds of disguises and blantantly in the open. It is a shame that mental health does not exist in these groups.

    Some people here rather be Far Right than Free. Some people think they are better than others because of their skin color and culture. Some people think they are smarter or have some kind of right to be bulllies and have to hate to justify their own existence.; All of these are very dangerous and scary, twisted people.

    Thank you, Morris Dees and Joe Levin for the Southern Poverty Law Center! Your courageous and dedicated work transends all expectations that I had for your struggle against the hate that these dying cowards stood for.
    If only the hate would die with them.

  • Jonas Rand

    “Just as U.S. troops fought to keep us free from Communist tyranny during the Vietnam War…”

    Actually, they didn’t. There was no threat to the US posed by the Vietnamese; it was American imperialism and a people fighting back, pure and simple.

  • Sheldon L. McCormick

    If their is any consolation over the death of ex-Klansman James Seale, 76, for the white supremacist1964 torture- murders two innocent young African-American men, it should be this; at least a Klan murderer didn’t die a free man. Others like him were punished by the law and suffered the same fate. Others were punished by fate, in do time. And because of the good will and courage and sacrifce of many men and women during the Civil Rights era, some at the cost of their own lives, America is a freer nation. Blacks today have rights, opportunities and liberties that would have been laughable then. We even have a black President of the United States, Barrack Obama. Racism still exist, but is no longer the offical law of the land. Just as U.S. troops fought to keep us free from Communist tyranny during the Vietnam War and other conflicts before and since, the civil rights activists, known and unknown and in various ways, did the same. That is worth rejoycing.

  • Jonas Rand

    The Tea Party is racist? Prove it!

    And what about “our country” does it threaten to derail? The people/civil society and the government both can be spoken of as “our country”, both speak in “our country”‘s name, but represent two very different things. I feel that it threatens to undermine legitimate grievances for astroturfing. If the people who actually attend Tea Party rallies are anything like Teabagger politicians, though, they are worse than Ronald Reagan, who at least knew when to stop cutting federal spending.

  • Reynardine

    The murderer has died; his credo has not. The Tea Party uprising which threatens to derail our country is a direct function of racism, opportunistcally fanned by the Goebbels (whoops) Murdoch propaganda machine and what now passes for the Republican party. Viz: Rep. Lamborn’s comment that being associated with the President is like touching a tarbaby. When called on it, utterers of these remarks first whistle and say, “Oh, nothing”, and when further confronted, say their accusers are “playing the race card”, but the bigoted dogs hear their dogwhistles very well. It’s time these dogwhistle political tactics were addressed, here and elsewhere.